Corporate media achieved a new level of absurdity last week, when Jesse Ball, writing for the Los Angeles Times, suggested every American be required to spend a stint behind bars every ten years as a veritable guarantee to improve conditions of incarceration in the United States.

In the piece titled, “Everyone should go to jail, say, once every ten years,” Ball writes,

“A notable demand that is made upon the citizens of the United States of America is that of jury duty. Although many despise, hate and avoid it, there is a general sense that the task is necessary. We believe a society is only just if everyone shares in the apportionment of guilt.

“To this demand of jury duty, I would like to add another, and in the same spirit. I propose that all citizens of the United States of America should serve a brief sentence of incarceration in our maximum-security penitentiaries. This service, which would occur for each person once in a decade, would help ensure that the quality of life within our prisons is sufficient for the keeping of human beings.”

Without foreknowledge on length of stay and other details, citizens would languish behind the same bars as convicted criminals under Ball’s proposal — albeit in a section separated from offenders, assumedly not to confuse jailers and inmates, or endanger anyone serving ‘incarceration duty.’

But Ball misses the point — feeding the elephant in the room of overcriminalization of daily life, excessive laws, and, worst by far of all, the normalization of incarceration as conditional to the American way of life — lecturing all of us to walk a mile in the shoes of the convicted rather than declaring the brazen failures of the Injustice System evidence enough, itself, for dismantling the whole dysfunctional mess.


After all, according to the Prison Policy Institute, the United States now cages some 2.3 million of its roughly 326.5 million total people — the largest per capita incarcerated persons of any nation on the entire planet.

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An interplanetary traveler would logically conclude it a prison nation — or, at least, one astonishingly rife with thugs, murderers, thieves, and worse.

Even the more law-and-order, authoritarian among us could see the flaws evident in a system claiming freedom, while locking away proportionally more than even the dictatorial fascist regimes our troops putatively combat.

While undoubtedly posited from a place of compassion as a plea for ethics in imprisonment, Ball’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek proposal unfortunately evinces the frequency with which Band-aids are applied as a fix for gaping structural flaws which should otherwise condemn the system to demolishment.

But, worst of all, this proposition capriciously normalizes the American Incarceration State.

Consider how those 2.3 million souls wound up stuffed into the cramped confines of the nation’s myriad federal, state, and local facilities; or, worse — judging by a voluminous body of anecdotal accounts — one of the altogether notorious prisons-for-profit, managed by private corporations intent only on thrift in housing its human commodities to save the State some pennies.

Most of the convicted behind bars have committed nonviolent crime — but moralizing on personal vice and legislation enacted sanctimoniously against substances have exploded the nation’s prison population to alarming proportions.

A court or jury decision of guilt in no way can be characterized on par with ‘laws’ governing ethics and human rights — for, if a candid observation of inmate records were ventured, a sweeping sum could be said to have landed in prison by violating the State’s prohibition on the cannabis plant.

And not violently so.

Forgetting for a moment ‘the law is the law,’ to describe a society as just, which chooses to not only cement unjust ideas into law, but imprison violators of aberrant legislation — particularly in cases of medicinal use — must be the pinnacle of hypocritical pomposity, if not the telltale heart of a dying empire.

Sure, forcing (on penalty of prison?!) yet more behind bars to prove how base the conditions behind bars might actually assist the vocal calling to improve conditions behind bars, but if so many have been locked there for reasons only justifiable for the violation interned in the print of legal tomes, the plan is an exercise in pure futility.

Unless it simply normalizes prison life as a veritable inevitability — might as well prepare for the eventuality some offensive chunk of life will be wasted rotting between the torrid walls of a prison cell.

The irony, palpable.

No, we do not need to send the relatively innocent to prison to endure torturously foul food and varying degrees of inhospitability to prove locking people in cages does nothing to curb crime — indeed, the opposite is arguably true.

It’s the system, broken — not people’s compassion.

Juries convict based on flawed evidence, evidence omitted by technicality, and an embarrassing list of other inexcusable conditions accumulated on the books over centuries — and more laws and regulations find their way to the ledger every day.

They’re creating additional ways to make you a criminal — so, in that sense, Ball might be onto something.

‘Get ready for prison, dear young people, by the time you’re an adult, there won’t be a thing you can do without somehow breaking the law,’ the writer unintentionally asserts between the lines.

“I wonder,” Ball continues, “once all you citizens of the United States are passing in and out of prison on a regular basis, will the conditions there not seem singularly urgent? Just picture congressmen, priests, stock traders, truck drivers, people of every faith, color, description, all for once sharing in something.”

Sharing in the memory of peering out from inside prison walls isn’t conducive to solving the issue of mass incarceration.

Scrapping unjust, unethical, amoral, and otherwise ludicrous laws governing every conceivable aspect of daily life, however, is.

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
  • John C Carleton

    When is he reporting to the general population of one of the Empires s#it hole prisons?

    • Damiana

      You can say shit here… frankly, I prefer you just cuss or choose another word than that silly “I’m fooling somebody” shit.

  • Gordon Klock

    “It’s the system, broken — not people’s compassion.” Maybe breaking down & limiting people’s compassion, is the secret intent behind this ‘idea’….

    • grgk

      I don’t think compasssion can really be limited, but broken down yes. and surely a lot of such ‘prison visitors’ would feel that way, may that have a positive or negative effect on the actual prisoners themselves

  • Damiana

    While this is hardly better than a perfectly ridiculous idea, it does come from a place of logic and compassion. The fastest way to turn a nation of “regular” people into a bunch of inhuman monsters is to assure them “this’ll never happen to YOU… just those people who deserve it.”

    I do wholeheartedly believe that if each person had to spend three days in a randomly selected jail or prison every ten years, the horrific conditions in our jails would clean RIGHT the fuck up, so that means (from my perspective, at least) it really IS a problem of “broken compassion.” How could the system be broken the way it is if anyone had a SHRED of compassion for “criminal scum”?

    • We are Anonymiss

      We agree with you on that. We hear from John and Ken all the time on the radio about how “we don’t CARE about what happens to inmates in jail!” They only care when inmates sue and cost us money because of the bad conditions, but “it’s their fault for being in there in the first place!” Needless to say, we don’t think they would be much for “prison reform” considering that they are the ones who are always “lock them up and throw away the key!” That is ESPECIALLY true for the murderers of Kelly Thomas…

    • grgk

      you should be clear about the problem you are referring to, i.e. what “really IS a problem of broken compassion”? in the last two sentences of the article, it says that the actual problem this silly proposal seeks to solve is that of “mass incarceration”, and no I do not believe it’s true that broken compassion is to blame for that. it’s the felons themselves along with the unfairness existing within the law. If the problem you’re saying is “horrific conditions in jails”, I strongly think this depends more on individuals behavior inside there and restricted govt budget for ever-growing penitentiaries.

      • Damiana

        “Lock ’em all up – they deserve prison” doesn’t strike you as a philosophy borne of broken human compassion?

  • Daniel W. McCullar

    I already did my time, in the United States military as a soldier! I served so idiots like this can open their mouths and show the world how stupid they really are! So instead of suggesting we all spend time in a maximum security prison how about we start becoming the one nation on earth without the greatest prison population of any first second or third world nation!

    • Damiana

      Agreed. You’ve “done your time,” because (in my humble opinion) it isn’t the sacrifice of life I find so generous in a soldier’s service. Hell, a person “risks their life” just walking to the store. It’s the voluntary surrender of your FREEDOM that’s the biggest gift – you made yourself “property of the US government” so I wouldn’t have to. For that, I am genuinely grateful.

    • crazytrain2

      Well, then you should be exempt. Serving your country should have some perks, not having to go to prison should be one of them.

      • grgk

        so all soldiers/ military personnel should be exempt from prison? (obviously not referring to that senseless proposal of all serving time, I’m talking about things as they hold) that’s absurd, alls liable to justice and anyway what about all related war crimes and mishandlings? in the same silly sense, let all felons choose to serve part of their sentence as war duty

        • crazytrain2

          No, I just meant in reference to this suggestion. I obviously was not saying that soldiers could never go to jail/prison.

  • Ibcamn

    jesse ball-[tard],should be behind bars for at least fifteen to twenty……does that sound good to you guys.
    what the hell,he wants to imprison every US citizen,isn’t that inciting some fucked up narrative.maybe he and his entire family should be behind bars,i think he is mentally insane and shit like that runs in the family,so,the family should go to prison…how does that sound jesse ball-[tard],how about it,you first….in fifteen to twenty come out and then well ask the same question of you and see what your answer is….hmm,sound good?…

    • We are Anonymiss

      Mentally insane? Is there any other kind of insanity?

  • John Conway

    Back door gun control ?

    • We are Anonymiss

      We doubt it. There is no prosecution. We aren’t talking about actual convicted felons.

  • Phil Freeman

    I. Read his crap, he didnt provide his check in date. Come on Jesse when ya goin?

  • crazytrain2

    What is this? The modern equivalent of Jonathan Swift’s A modest proposal, where he suggested to solve the problem of hunger, we eat our young?

    I actually see his point, even if the more “progressive” amongst us do not. If Americans were forced to spend time in prison, more people would be forced to come face to face with the hell of incarceration. That would be the most effective way to get more people behind the idea of decreasing the number of people in prison. It would become something real, not something romanticized on television or in movies. The “prison industrial complex” would hate it.

    • grgk

      Nice thought that the authorities would probably hate smth like this. Also, I would like to add that apart from making people realize that they should work on the law in order for less people to be considered ‘prisonable’ criminals, people would themselves realize how hard it is inside there and probably individually strive more not to end up in there

      It’s like forcing drivers to experience a virtual car accident in order to pass their driving test and get a license or even putting them to drive under the influence, so they both know how it actually is and also try better to avoid it

      • crazytrain2

        Well, actual criminals don’t seem to get the message since many are so intent on going back time after time.

  • grgk

    I counter-propose all inmates get to live among the richest people and highest of society once in a while! because seemingly today more money equals more freedom/ exception from law, so just to make an argument, these would be the people ‘most opposite’ to prisoners in the same sense that prisoners are the ‘opposite’ of the ‘free’ people outside

    Jokes aside, I’m not sure what the reason would be for this. And I do not want to make a comparison of the effectiveness of this vs that of the original proposal, because would their be any effectiveness/ positive effect on the prisoners at all from this?